Art Gallery of Ontario

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July, 2017

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I saw an exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer. I was familiar with her large paintings of flowers but this was the first time I learned about her early life and her work in New York and in New Mexico where she lived for most of her adult life. The exhibit included photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz. She was in a relationship with Stieglitz and many of his photographs are nudes. There was also a documentary about O’Keeffe. It was very interesting and disheartening to see her disappointment in not being taken seriously as an artist in light of the nude photographs Stieglitz took of her. Critics persisted in looking for sexual innuendo in her paintings rather than seeing them as she intended – reflections of what she saw in nature. They do say that art is in the eye of the beholder and people will look for what they want to see.

The desert scenes of New Mexico include many animal skulls as well as adobe buildings. My favourites were the colourful modern depictions of water such as stormy weather in “Nature Forms – Gaspé” after her visit to Canada in 1932.

Unfortunately, O’Keeffe’s exhibit is no longer at the AGO in Toronto. However, if you are in Salem Massachusetts in the US, you can see an exhibit of her work at the Peabody Essex Museum from December 16, 2017 to April 1, 2018.

Denise Bridge

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